Lord Ganesh smiles at everyone from his rocky boulder abode in the Sahyadris, while Tiger Junior attempts a growl from the side.
Having his human head replaced with an elephant’s must have bitterly hurt, but the endearing trunk and pot-bellied stomach are definite contributors in making Ganpati a permanent resident of every heart in Pune – for that matter, Maharashtra.
The year begins here with the anticipation of Ganesh Chaturthi, the Lord’s birthday celebration. The streets are crowded all ten days of the festival, the shops bursting with people. Ask a Maharashtrian about the event and he’ll go at length to explain how Ganpati bestows wisdom and good fortune on one and all. He is, for every household here, extended family.
During the ten days of the festival, life-like idols of the Lord are worshipped in pandals and in homes. It is believed that he heeds all prayers made to him during this time. On the eleventh day, the idols are immersed in water – symbolizing Ganpati starting his return journey to Mount Kailash, where his parents (Shiv and Parvati) reside. In his back pack he carries all the woes of his worshippers, presumably to dump them into some dark abyss.
As the toy train to Matheran (a tiny hill station in the Sahyadri mountain range of Maharashtra) turns a narrow curve, he waves at all the passengers, lighting up their faces with delight.